Ancient volumes in Co Fermanagh made ready for World Book Day

During lockdown a trend has developed whereby people use their book collection as a backdrop for their video feeds.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 1:27 pm
Updated Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 1:47 pm
Books on bookshelves, part of the Library collections of the Earls of Enniskillen  at Florence Court, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.
Books on bookshelves, part of the Library collections of the Earls of Enniskillen at Florence Court, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.

The trend has been labelled ‘bookcase credibility’, though it’s safe to say the bookcase at Florence Court in Enniskillen would put most collections to shame.

It is also a library which requires a little more maintenance than most, given that some of the books date back to the 16th century.

Ahead of World Book Day tomorrow, the National Trust offered a behind-the-scenes insight into how the team at Florence Court care for the prized collection of 1,400 books at Florence Court in County Fermanagh.

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Cleaning one of the books at Florence Court

Collections Assistant Heather Hamilton began working for the Trust in 1987. She plays a key role in the house, caring for thousands of precious items housed at Florence Court in Co Fermanagh.

She said: “Various members of the family added to the book collection here over the years.

“Most notably, during the 19 century the Third Earl of Enniskillen became an avid collector of natural history books and Charlotte the Fourth Countess of Enniskillen collected many books on flowers and gardening.”

Each spring, Heather and the team, supported by a group of volunteers, set to work cleaning and cataloguing every single book in the collection.

She said: “Each book takes roughly twenty minutes to check, clean and catalogue, but this varies depending on size, condition and fragility.

“We use a variety of tools of the trade including nitrile gloves, masks – to prevent inhalation of any mould spores, HEPA filter vacuum, and a range of specialised brushes.

“We also prepare the work area, so the book is protected from any further damage, this includes sheeting the surface, and resting the books on bespoke supports during cleaning.

“The books are regularly checked for mould, bugs, woodworm and so on.

“We don’t thankfully have any bug infestations, but mould can be a problem at times. It is removed with care using a pony-hair brush, while wearing a mask and brushing into a box with a museum vacuum attached.”

When the house reopens visitors will have the chance to view the impressive library that contains a number of special items, some of which date back to the sixteenth and seventeenth century including Sylva by John Evelyn, The Morall Law Expounded by Lancelot Andrewes, Respublica Hollandiæ et urbes by Hugo Grotius and the Cole family bible which holds records of births, marriages and deaths.

For more information on Florence Court and its collections visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/florence-court

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